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The Cellist Analysis

Author: Poetry of Galway Kinnell Type: Poetry Views: 114

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At intermission I find her backstage

still practicing the piece coming up next.

She calls it the "solo in high dreary."

Her bow niggles at the string like a hand

stroking skin it never wanted to touch.

Probably under her scorn she is sick

that she can't do better by it. As I am,

at the dreary in me, such as the disparity

between all the tenderness I've received

and the amount I've given, and the way

I used to shrug off the imbalance

simply as how things are, as if the male

were constituted like those coffeemakers

that produce less black bitter than the quantity

of sweet clear you poured in--forgetting about

how much I spilled through unsteady walking,

and that lot I threw on the ground

in suspicion, and for fear I wasn't worthy,

and all I poured out for reasons I don't understand yet.

"Break a leg!" somebody tells her.

Back in my seat, I can see she is nervous

when she comes out; her hand shakes as she

re-dog-ears the top corners of the big pages

that look about to flop over on their own.

Now she raises the bow--its flat bundle of hair

harvested from the rear ends of horses--like a whetted

scimitar she is about to draw across a throat,

and attacks. In a back alley a cat opensher pink-ceilinged mouth, gets netted

in full yowl, clubbed, bagged, bicycled off, haggled open,

gutted, the gut squeezed down to its highest pitch,

washed, sliced into cello strings, which bring

an ancient screaming into this duet of hair and gut.

Now she is flying--tossing back the goblets

of Saint-Amour standing empty,

half-empty, or full on the tablecloth-

like sheet music. Her knees tighten

and loosen around the big-hipped creature

wailing and groaning between them

as if in elemental amplexus.

The music seems to rise from the crater left

when heaven was torn up and taken off the earth;

more likely it comes up through her priest's dress,

up from that clump of hair which by now

may be so wet with its waters, like the waters

the fishes multiplied in at Galilee, that

each wick draws a portion all the way out

to its tip and fattens a droplet on the bush

of half notes now glittering in that dark.

At last she lifts off the bow and sits back.

Her face shines with the unselfconsciousness of a cat

screaming at night and the teary radiance of one

who gives everything no matter what has been given.


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